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Best PCIe Card: $100 And Under

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: December 2010
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Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For Under $50:

Radeon HD 4650 (Check Prices)

Great 1280x1024 performance in most games, 1680x1050 with lowered detail

Radeon HD 4650
Codename: RV730
Process: 55 nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 32
ROPs: 16
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 600
Memory Speed MHz: 400 (800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 10.1/SM 4.1

I'm resurrecting this one for budget-minded gamers, as all of the other worthwhile cards cost $65 and above (far too close to the powerful Radeon HD 5670).

You will not find a card that packs more punch than AMD's Radeon HD 4650 at the alluring $50 price point. With solid stock performance and an overclockable GPU, this card is an excellent starting point for our list of recommendations, and a wholly worthwhile upgrade if you're currently stuck using a motherboard limited to integrated graphics.

Bear in mind that Sandy Bridge-based CPUs will be here in a couple of weeks. Intel seems to think that its on-die graphics will make entry-level discrete cards obsolete; we still have our doubts. I guess we'll know soon enough.

Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For $65:

Radeon HD 5550 (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1280x1024 performance in most games, 1680x1050 with lowered detail

Radeon HD 5550
Codename: RV830
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 320
Texture Units: 16
ROPs: 8
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 550
Memory Speed MHz:  800-900 (1600-1800 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

The Radeon HD 5550 is a slightly crippled Radeon HD 5570, but at the $65 price point it serves as a reasonable upgrade over the Radeon HD 4650 for less cash than the Radeon HD 5670. Equipped with DDR3 memory, this card has specifications similar to the older Radeon HD 4670.

Best PCI Express (PCIe) Card For $80:

Radeon HD 5670 (Check Prices)

Exceptional 1680x1050 performance in most games, 1920x1200 in most games with lowered detail

Radeon HD 5670
Codename: RV830
Process: 40 nm
Universal Shaders: 400
Texture Units: 20
ROPs: 8
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Core Speed MHz: 775
Memory Speed MHz:   1000 (4000 effective)
DirectX/Shader Model: DX 11/SM 5.0

The Radeon HD 5670 is the most powerful card you can buy that doesn't require an auxiliary PCIe power cable.

The Radeon HD 5670 offers DirectX 11 compatibility along with all of the other Radeon HD 5000-series features, such as multi-display support and high-def audio bitstreaming. Folks planning to buy this card for a budget Eyefinity setup need to pay attention, as some manufacturers don't include the DisplayPort output needed to use three monitors simultaneously.

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Top Comments
  • 13 Hide
    gxpbecker , December 21, 2010 11:55 AM
    Love the compition between AMD/Nvidia

    Dear Tom's
    Please for the love of everything holy remove those Jump ads afeter EVERY page change. Thanks - frustrated Tom's User
Other Comments
  • 2 Hide
    jjb8675309 , December 21, 2010 4:06 AM
    pretty much reciprocates my thoughts exactly
  • 1 Hide
    Tamz_msc , December 21, 2010 4:49 AM
    Great article as usual.
  • 4 Hide
    duk3 , December 21, 2010 5:46 AM
    Ties everywhere, I love it
  • 1 Hide
    ShahJahan , December 21, 2010 6:35 AM
    Along with the "Check Prices" link, please also provide a "Full Review" link for every graphic card.
  • 5 Hide
    Silmarunya , December 21, 2010 8:06 AM
    reprotectedIt's funny how ATI's fixed Crossfire scaling proves useless against Nvidia's original unimproved SLI.


    Actually, since 69XX Crossfire's scaling is more or less on par with SLI, depending on the title.

    Still, I agree with SLI's merits. Of course, ATI also has its merits (far superior performance per watt and often per dollar as well for example).

    It's a good time for PC enthousiasts. For the first time in months both ATI and Nvidia now have something worth buying (unlike in the original Fermi era, where ATI ruled alone).
  • -2 Hide
    dEAne , December 21, 2010 8:43 AM
    Thanks for the update tom - I need that.
  • 0 Hide
    zodiacfml , December 21, 2010 9:46 AM
    I still love it when you state " is the most powerful card you can buy that doesn't require an auxiliary PCIe power cable" as this is always my card of choice. The type of card simplifies things and still would think I got the best card. :p 
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , December 21, 2010 10:33 AM
    they should've included the ~600$ twin 6950's.. since an extra 80$ will walk all over the geforce 580.. i know that 80$ isn't a small amount, but when you're building a pc with ~2000$ budget, two of those rather than one 580 does seem pretty logical...
  • 0 Hide
    christop , December 21, 2010 10:48 AM
    Nice info..
  • 0 Hide
    youssef 2010 , December 21, 2010 11:40 AM
    Great Article. BTW has any body seen this wicked $169.99 HD5850 at newegg?

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814131386&cm_re=5850-_-14-131-386-_-Product



    or this $179.99 GTX 460 1 GB (seen only in the cart)

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814187115
  • 0 Hide
    nafhan , December 21, 2010 11:41 AM
    Just a thought about the Sandy Bridge comment at the start of the article:
    It looks like Sandy Bridge may be in the same performance category as the truly low end discrete parts (i.e. Radeon 5450/GT 210). That's a huge improvement for Intel IGP's (and IGP's in general), but those GPU's are basically to slow for gaming and much slower than the 4650. So, I don't think Sandy Bridge should impact the recommendation for the 4650.
  • 13 Hide
    gxpbecker , December 21, 2010 11:55 AM
    Love the compition between AMD/Nvidia

    Dear Tom's
    Please for the love of everything holy remove those Jump ads afeter EVERY page change. Thanks - frustrated Tom's User
  • 1 Hide
    jedi940 , December 21, 2010 12:32 PM
    ^+1 Agreed. PLEASEEE!!!
  • 0 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , December 21, 2010 1:19 PM
    for ~600 bucks, two 6950s in crossfire kicks ass massively..
    http://www.guru3d.com/article/radeon-hd-6950-crossfirex-review
  • 1 Hide
    NuclearShadow , December 21, 2010 1:25 PM
    reprotectedIt's funny how ATI's fixed Crossfire scaling proves useless against Nvidia's original unimproved SLI.


    ATI has finally remedied that problem. So I don't see how its "useless"
    go ahead and check the benchmarks with the 6850's CF and the 1GB 460's
    SLI. At this point any gamer should really just decide on price and maybe Physx if the gamers personal preferences desire it.
  • 1 Hide
    Onus , December 21, 2010 1:35 PM
    I appreciate the addition of power-usage remarks among the recommendations. With multiple cards able to provide the required performance, power usage becomes a valid criterion for making a final selection. All else being [effectively] equal, there is no sane reason not to choose the card that draws less power.
  • 0 Hide
    wolfram23 , December 21, 2010 1:41 PM
    Good list. This is the one thing I hate about PCs... I just got two 5850s for $299 each back in April/May which was a great deal at the time... Now I could get more for less. Oh well, the good news is they're able to crush anything I throw at them so I can't really complain. Still... 6950s at that price point makes me sad lol.
  • 0 Hide
    flyinfinni , December 21, 2010 1:57 PM
    Toms- you dropped the ball here on the 450/5750. The reviews actually show the 5750 and 450 to be very close in single card configurations, but show the 5750 PULLING AHEAD in dual card configurations. You state the opposite in this article. Might be worth an edit here.
  • -2 Hide
    rpgplayer , December 21, 2010 2:19 PM
    reprotectedIt's funny how ATI's fixed Crossfire scaling proves useless against Nvidia's original unimproved SLI.


    which is a direct product of AMD's terrible driver support, AMD/ATI needs to exert more effort in driver development, and driver optimization. Their hardware has always been great, software support on the otherhand has always been where they are lacking.
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